Corruption and Bribery:
National Security Impacts
No country is immune from corruption.  It flourishes where the criminal justice system and government is weak, where decision-making is unaccountable and access to decision-makers is dependent on restricted social networks, where pay is low and where management controls are weak.
Corruption has profound implications for national and international security. The links have been specifically noted by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit:
"Leakage of WMD technology, trafficking and further proliferation is facilitated by systematic corruption, the presence of organised criminals and terrorists, poor governance, lack of territorial control and state failure, all of which are associated with instability."
Corruption is a major feature of 'weak' or 'failing states' that are often safe havens for terrorists.
"Corruption threatens our shared agenda on global security and stability... We recognize that corrupt practices contribute to the spread of organized crime and terrorism, undermine public trust in government, and destabilize economies."
Final Communiqué G8 St. Petersburg Summit July 2006.
The Fund for Peace, a US think-tank notes "a strong correlation between Transparency International's perception of corruption scores and a state's instability. Eight of the 10 most stable countries also appear among the 10 least corrupt." In its 2006 "Failed States Index", the group ranks Saudi Arabia 73rd out of 146, and specifically highlights corruption as a major area of concern:
"Although there have been increasing pressures for political reform... Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy with little transparency or accountablity. In addition to continuing with these reforms, the government needs to address the issue of corruption within the royal family, and work to improve its human rights record."
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has stressed that the UK's national security is intimately bound to addressing state failure:
"If we construct a counter-terrorism Strategy that ignores human rights, then that policy will fail – because we know that human rights abuse provides a fertile ground for radicalisation and extremism; and because we know that bad human rights can lead to failed states which in their turn can offer a safe haven for terrorists".
Corruption has encouraged and facilitated terrorist recruitment.
"Extremely poor governance and corruption have contributed to financial and economic collapse, public alienation, and even violence and failed states, with disastrous consequences for the poor."
The World Bank
Osama bin Laden's 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” cited corruption in Saudi Arabia and arms purchases by the Saudi government as justifications for his call for a Jihad against the United States and against the Saudi royal family. His belief the Jihad is justified to combat corruption was repeated in May 1998:
"Every state and every civilization and culture has to resort to terrorism under certain circumstances for the purpose of abolishing tyranny and corruption"
In 2004, bin Laden criticised the Saudi royal family as a "corrupt gang" and referred to defence contracts as evidence of the government's lack of concern for the increasing economic and social insecurity of its citizens.
Authoritative accounts of the genesis of Al Qaeda stress how abhorrence of corruption motivated key figures in the network. In his book Al Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, Jason Burke cites the "obvious corruption and ostentation on the part of the elite and government officials" as two of the underlying "root causes of the appeal of the Islamic radicals" in Egypt following the 1981 assassination of President Sadat. One of those recruited during this period was Mohammed Atta, a ringleader of the 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center.
Combating terrorism requires combating corruption
“There is... a nexus of fast growing issues around capacity to tackle organised crime and corruption as key security issues for citizens and drivers of state instability.”
Prime Minister's Strategy Unit Security, Development and Human Rights: Shaping the Emerging International Doctrine, May 2005.
The Home office issued a Strategy document in March 2004 on combating organised crime. This noted that:
"Bribery overseas can be a factor which supports corrupt governments, with widespread destabilising consequences. We are duty-bound to promote high standards of fairness and integrity and to ensure that UK citizens do not contribute to corruption either at home or abroad."
- Prime Minister Strategy Unit, Investing in Prevention: an International Strategy to manage risks of instability and improve crisis response, February 2005
- World Bank, Strengthening Bank Group Engagement on Governance and Anti-corruption, September 2006
- Financial Action Task Force, 'Money Laundering'
- Joint Money Laundering Steering Group, “Prevention of Money Laundering – Combating the Financing of Terrorism: Guidance for the UK Financial Sector”
- Failed and Failing States, a speech by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the European Research Institute, 6th September 2002
- Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, “Launch of Annual Report on Human Rights", 12th October 2006
- The Fund for Peace, “Failed States Index 2006”
- Fund for Peace, "Saudi Arabia"
- Online News Hour, "Bin Laden's Fatwa", August 1996
- Interview with Osama bin Laden, PBS, May1998
- Middle East Media Research Institute, Osama bin Laden, "Today There is a Conflict between World Heresy Under the Leadership of America on the One Hand and the Islamic Nation with the Mujahideen in its Vanguard on the Other", 16 December 2004
- Jason Burke, Al Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, Penguin 2004
- Home Office, One Step Ahead: a 21st Century strategy to Defeat Organised Crime, March 2004
1. A common definition of corruption is “the abuse of public or private office for personal gain.” (Asian Development Bank, Anti-Corruption: Policies and Strategies,
Description and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, Manila, Philippines, 2000, p.1)
The UK government defines bribery as "the receiving or offering/giving of any benefit (in cash or in kind) by or to any public servant or office holder or to a director or employee of a private company in order to induce that person to give improper assistance in breach of their duty to the government of company which has appointed them." (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Bribery and Corruption Law, May 2006)
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